Complaints about a highly visible drop-in service for people on the street have led the City of Kamloops to deem a Tranquille Road address a nuisance property.
Following a meeting with the city on Thursday, May 27, Glenn Hilke said the city has deemed The Loop, at 405a Tranquille Rd. in North Kamloops, a nuisance property.
The Loop provides thrice-daily meal service seven days a week, from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., the only one of its kind on the North Shore. Hilke — who is known in the community as someone who pushes boundaries to get help for people in need — refutes the designation, insisting the centre is not a nuisance.
“No, we are a good neighbour, that’s what we are,” Hilke said, noting the positive impact the centre has had on the neighbourhood is in helping people stay calm and balanced so they don’t upset peace in the neighbourhood.
“Can you imagine if a lot of the people we helped were just starving, dehydrated? Living in the same clothes for months? … I think the mental-health environment in our city, in our neck of the woods, would be even more intense if people did not have the support that we’ve been giving them,” he said. “And we are getting people off the streets, just like ASK Wellness and other agencies that work on shelter and housing.”
The city’s community services manager, Tammy Blundell, said she could not speak to the designation of the nuisance property, but noted the city is working with the property owner, who she said is “responding positively” to figuring out solutions for issues occurring at the address.
“The city has a process that must be completed prior to disclosing any information regarding that designation,” Blundell said.
Coun. Dale Bass said the city has received numerous complaints of late about The Loop, which appears to be attracting more individuals at a time of the year community services organizations acknowledge leads to an influx of homeless people in Kamloops.
Bass said complaints have included a bake sale event contravening COVID-19 protocols, people sleeping in the parking lot, open drug use and accumulation of garbage. Bass said the city needs a proper day lodge for the street-entrenched, complete with professional supports, and called The Loop a “stop gap.”
Bass said many of the complaints the city is receiving are based on fear.
“But that’s irrelevant because people are afraid,” she said. “I’m getting grief from Glenn that these are just people who don’t like the homeless. Well, I can’t change that fear and that fear is stopping people from going down into that area to shop, which is affecting the businesses.”
Arpa Investments partner Joshua Knaak, who has myriad development projects in the area, said a number of social services based on the North Shore are improving the community. The Loop is an outlier, he said, operating in the wrong place by the wrong people. Knaak said the centre is attracting a problematic crowd and does not have adequate supervision, with negative spinoffs on the neighbourhood.
“There’s open drug use, there’s fights,” Knaak said. “We had to call the RCMP the other day because there was physical altercation going on back there. The Loop is just blissfully unaware of that. There’s overnight camping going on not only on his site, which is problematic on its own, but they’re also suggesting people stay in along in the alley behind the Taiwanese restaurant.”
The North Shore Improvement Association released a statement on Thursday, stating the organization previously endorsed funding for extension of outreach hours and services at The Loop until 10 p.m. The statement said overnight sheltering and congregation has since occurred, causing significant disruption and further stigma and safety concerns among residents and business owners. The statement said the area is drawing, at times, 30 individuals, including open drug use, exchange of goods and social disruption.
In those instances, the NSBIA stated, the group is larger than can be “reasonably managed by volunteers.” On the flip side, however, the NSBIA conceded The Loop has filled a gap in community services and resulted in six people securing housing.
Hilke said the issue is one of “optics,” with some concerned about seeing people gathering, shopping carts filled with personal belongings and the perception of substance use.
KTW visited The Loop on Thursday afternoon. Street issues are not new in Kamloops and people have often been relegated to alleyways or riverbanks in North Kamloops. The Loop, however, is highly visible on Tranquille Road and is an area that collides with one that has also seen an injection of new business life of late, between redevelopment and hip businesses, like Bright Eye Brewing and Red Beard.
Tables and canopies could be seen outside of The Loop, with a few people seated outdoors, a few other individuals sitting in a corner and personal belongings piled up in some areas. Others filtered in and out of the area, including on two wheels.
A volunteer, who asked not to be named, said that while the city has said it received complaints about The Loop, nobody has come to the centre to express concerns. Inside The Loop building on Thursday afternoon, Borscht was cooking on the stove, courtesy of purple-fingered, busy-bee volunteers, who stopped to tell this newspaper that the centre provides yet another basic need: a bathroom. Tim Horton’s doesn’t allow it and McArthur Island is a ways to go, when you need to go.
A client who asked not to be named said that if The Loop was not available, he would instead wander the streets. The Loop provides a place to eat, socialize and talk with volunteers who care, he said.
“That’s important because a lot of us are going through hell, you know?” he said.
Hilke worries the nuisance property designation could lead to closure of The Loop, though he said that is not yet the case. KTW reached out to the property owner, The Loop’s landlord, for comment and is awaiting a call back.